Antigua and Barbuda has developed a revolutionary way of combining aquaculture and hydroponics to produce fish and vegetables at the same time. In the quiet residential area of Upper Renfrew, St. John’s is Indies Greens, the island’s only aquaponics farm and training centre.
This unique farm and training facility was established in 2016, to tackle the growing demand there for fish products, healthier diets and lifestyles. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) supported the development of training facilities on the Indies Greens Farm and funded the building of a training facility.
Not only does the farm produce vegetables such as lettuce and spinach, and herbs such as chives and mint, as well as tilapia fish for sale; it also serves as a facility for long-term training opportunities for locals as well as the entire Caribbean region.
Aquaponics is becoming increasingly popular, because it can be set up in a wide range of sizes, from large-scale production that requires public and private investments to much smaller-sized ventures, making it an attractive opportunity for young farmers in Antigua and Barbuda, who may have limited financial resources.
The Antigua and Barbuda government made the development of the aquaponics sector a priority and sought technical assistance to grow and advance the sector from FAO.
The farm is a training facility for people from the Bahamas, Barbados and St Kitts and Nevis, while the Climate Change Adaptation in the Eastern Caribbean Fisheries Sector (CC4FISH) project trained participants from Grenada and Saint Lucia which brings some extra benefits to people in the region. The investment in Indies Greens is reaping benefits as the aquaponics farm is producing approximately 24,000lbs of tilapia annually and 3,500 heads of lettuce per month.
The enviable title of ‘master trainer’ was earned by those farmers who completed the training and who can now train other farmers themselves, both in Antigua and Barbuda and across the Caribbean. Some master trainers have also been able to design and build their own aquaponics systems, through public-private partnerships some of which are generating over US$1,000 per month.
Antigua and Barbuda has not only increased its production of healthy food, it has also strengthened the livelihood of farmers through innovation, knowledge and technology transfer.